The Synoptic Gospels, those written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with their similarities in content and narrative, all present the apocalyptic teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ as He met with His disciples across from Jerusalem upon the Mount of Olives. Each Gospel describes troubling and horrific times to come that will affect the entire world. These signs will be visible and unmistakable displays of the wrath of God upon wicked humanity and of the return of Christ to the earth as the conquering King of Kings who will establish a new heaven and earth forever.
John’s Gospel takes an entirely different direction in his recollection of Jesus. He is not just the promised Messiah, but God Incarnate who came into this world to bring salvation to both Israel and the world.
John 1: 1-4 declares that Jesus Christ is the Divine Creator of all things (Genesis 1; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1: 16-18; Hebrews 1: 1-2) and was with God the Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity past, with no beginning or end, outside of space, time, and matter and fully self-sufficient. He models the perfect love of the Father, doing the work expected of Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. John recorded eight miracles that showed Jesus’ Divine nature. He also wrote that Jesus did other great works that He did not record, but “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31, NASB).
The miracles that John did write of included turning water into wine (2: 1-11); the healing of the nobleman’s son (4: 46-54); the healing of the man at the pool of Siloam (5: 1-9); the healing of the man who was born blind (9: 1-7); the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Chapter 11), and the great quantity of fish that were caught in the disciple’s nets (21: 1-6). In his commentary on the Gospel of John, Dr. John MacArthur gives some reasons as to why John wrote about his account of Jesus:
“John is the only one of the four Gospels that contains a precise statement of the author’s purpose (20:31). His objective was both apologetic (defense of the faith) and evangelistic. In keeping with his evangelistic purpose, he uses the verb “to believe” nearly one hundred times, twice as much as the Synoptics, emphasizing that those who believe in Jesus as the Savior will receive eternal life (3: 16, 4: 14, 5: 24, 29 –30, 6: 27, 33, 40, 47-48, 54, 63, 68, 10: 10, 28, 12:50, 14: 6, 20: 31). John’s evangelistic purpose is inseparable from his apologetic purpose, showing the identity of Jesus, that of God Incarnate.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: John 1- 11. Chicago, Moody Press, 2006, p. 9).
On the last night Jesus had with His disciples before He was to face betrayal, abandonment, a sham trial, and a horrific death upon the cross that would serve an eternal purpose, this account took place in what has been referred to as the “Upper Room” (Mark 14: 14-15). John devoted a large part of his Gospel to this event (John, Chapters 13–17).
Here, Jesus demonstrated the nature of service, told of the arrival of the Holy Spirit as their Teacher and Comforter, and declared that He is the ONLY way to the Father. He described Himself as the True Vine by which they would bear fruit, to look to Him in prayer for their needs, love one another as He loved them, and concluded the evening with the High Priestly prayer on their behalf and for those who would come to believe in the future. One of the teachings He gave was that He would come back at a special time to “receive them to Himself” and take them to heaven (14: 1-3).
Bible teachers such as John MacArthur; the late Drs. Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord, Tim LaHaye, Dr. Ed Hindson, and Zola Levitt; Drs. Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Constable; Pastors J.D. Farag, Billy Crone, and others believe that what was taught by Jesus refers to the event in Scripture known as the “Rapture,” the sudden “snatching away” of true followers (1 Corinthians 15: 51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It is also known as the “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:11 –15). The Rapture event has been a source of debate and controversy for several years within the field of eschatology, or the study of last things.
The first issue of the Rapture is the word itself, which some believers and skeptics claim is not found in Scripture and an erroneous teaching. The word “rapture” is derived from the koine Greek, the original language in which the New Testament was written. The word is “harpazo,” meaning “catch,” “pluck,” “force,” “pull,” and “snatch” in a rapid manner. (Vine, W.A., An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words: Chicago, Fleming H. Revell Publishers, 1966, p.299).
Jesus will come and suddenly “snatch away” His true church, taking us to His dwelling place for all time. Jesus also referred to His return as being quicker than a flash of lightning across the sky (Matthew 24:27). Paul used this analogy when he described the “harpazo” being quicker than an eye takes time to blink (1 Corinthians 15: 51-52).
The second issue is whether there are any other occurrences in Scripture apart from the future tense of “harpazo” described in John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In the rest of the New Testament, this term is used fourteen times (Matthew 11:12, 12:29; John 6:15, 10:12, 28-29; Acts 8:39, 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4; Jude 1:23, and Revelation 12:5). There are two cases found in the Old Testament of being “snatched away.”
The Hebrew word is “laqach.” It applies to the patriarch Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-11). Both men were known for their godly nature and were received into the presence of God without dying. According to some Bible teachers, these two men might be the ones described in Revelation 11 who are given miraculous powers to show everyone the holiness and judgment of God in the time of the Great Tribulation. They will be sentenced to death by the Antichrist, and their bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for three days. Their deaths will be celebrated. Scripture says that they will also be raised to life again after three days and “caught up” into heaven as another sign of God’s authority over the wicked world.
Returning now to the interpretation of John 14:1-3 as the teaching of the “Rapture” event, we read that Jesus was going away to prepare a home for them. The features in this description do not describe Jesus coming to earth with His saints to establish His Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-15) but taking believers to live with Him in heaven. Since no judgment on the unsaved is described here, this is not the event of His glorious and powerful return where He will destroy the wicked (Matthew 13:36-43, 47-50) but His coming to gather His own who are alive and raise the bodies of those who have died to take them all to heaven.
After the Rapture, the true church will celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10), be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3: 11-15, 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5: 9-10), and later return to Earth with Christ when He comes again to set up His kingdom (Revelation 19:11-20:6). As surely as He went away, He will come back again, for HIs desire is to have His own with Him for eternity.
I encourage you to do your own research and prayerfully conclude how these events play out as the days draw closer to the Lord’s return. Bible prophecy is not a checklist of times, signs, and seasons to win an eschatological argument. It is the complete and perfect fulfillment of the promises made by the Sovereign LORD God Almighty that, in the end, Jesus wins, the devil loses, and a new world is coming.
Share that with someone who needs to know that this world is heading for a reckoning and accountability before God, and to look to Jesus Christ for salvation and true peace. We serve a victorious God, and He desires that everyone be saved (2 Peter 3:9). That includes YOU.